100 days – mostly hard and bitter, not of the dreamy and sweet kind promised before the elections – have elapsed since Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India’s first BJP-majority government. The new government may not yet have unveiled any clearly formulated policy agenda, but we already have enough pronouncements and indications to assess which way the government is headed. And when Narendra Modi and the BJP are at the helm of governance, it does not make sense to focus our attention only on the government. The actions of the party and its numerous Sanghi siblings and coalition cousins clearly have no less impact on the overall milieu.
Talking of policy initiatives, the new government is pursuing the familiar UPA agenda with greater intensity. Almost the entire economy has now been thrown open to foreign capital, with Narendra Modi dramatically inviting foreign capital to “come, make in India” on the anniversary of India’s independence from colonial rule. From railway to finance and even defence, every sector will now see greater penetration of foreign capital. And in a bid to make a final rupture with the Nehruvian legacy of economic governance, the new government has decided to do away with the Planning Commission. With systematic disinvestment, private corporations will now have a free run on India’s rich resources, cheap labour and growing market.
While giving a freer hand to big capital, the government seems committed to subverting and weakening the framework of rights for the working people. Major amendments are being mooted in labour laws, food security and employment guarantee legislations are being rendered toothless, and safeguards against indiscriminate land acquisition are being planned to be systematically subverted. Instead of ensuring universal rights to food, shelter, sanitation, health, education and employment, the government is promising development through MP/MLA funds and so-called corporate benevolence. The Jan Dhan scheme is high on symbolism and low on substance: it promises financial inclusion through bank accounts, debit cards and pretentious insurance covers without any indication of augmentation of the abysmally low income levels for the toiling masses.